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On 26 January, the Latvian EIT Health Hub organised a discussion on the role of artificial intelligence in the future of medicine "A Glimpse into the Future of Medicine: Opportunities for AI and the Space Industry".

The following experts took part in the discussion: Āris Kasparāns, Director of the National Health Service, Normunds Grūzītis, Head of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the University of Latvia, Karina Palkova, Vice-Dean of the RSU Faculty of Law, sworn advocate and medical law expert, Vita Stūre, founder of Semantic Intelligence, and Kaspars Grosu, Customer Relations and Business Development Manager at DataMed. The discussion was moderated by TV journalist Uģis Joksts. Pauls Irbins, President of the Latvian Space Industry Association, gave a presentation on the medical opportunities offered by discoveries in the space sector.

eit_health_latvijas_centra_diskusija_par_maksligo_intelektu00.jpgFrom the left: Āris Kasparāns, Normunds Grūzītis, Vita Stūre, Karina Palkova, Kaspars Grosu, Uģis Joksts. Photo: EIT Health Latvijas centra archive

Artificial intelligence is increasingly gaining ground in medicine, helping to achieve better patient outcomes and a better patient experience. But alongside its many benefits, it also poses challenges - the need for skilled professionals to work with AI, the willingness of patients and healthcare professionals to integrate AI into their care, quality control for AI solutions, and data management, according to the experts at the discussion organised by the Latvian hub of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology in Health (EIT Health).

Another major challenge is the incomplete legal framework, which currently does not clearly define liability for the use of AI. The discussion also highlighted that AI cannot and will not replace human resources, which will still be needed to develop, manage, and use the technology in healthcare processes.

baiba_petersone_0.jpgBaiba Pētersone, Director of the RSU International Department and Head of the Latvian EIT Health Hub. Photo: EIT Health Latvijas centra archive

‘Health issues have always been on everyone's agenda, but in recent years they have become particularly relevant. We see a need for innovative solutions in health, both in Latvia and globally. Only those healthcare systems that are open to these solutions can and will be able to offer services that meet today's needs,’ says Baiba Pētersone, Director of the RSU International Department and Head of the Latvian EIT Health Hub.

Artificial intelligence will not replace human resources in medicine

Research shows that AI can correctly assess health conditions 87% of the time (compared to 86% for healthcare professionals), while the chosen treatment was correct 93% of the time (compared to 91% for physicians). Thus, the question is becoming more and more relevant: will AI replace human resources over time?

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eit_health_latvijas_centra_diskusija_par_maksligo_intelektu03.jpgMoerator: TV journalist Uģis Joksts. Photo: EIT Health Latvijas centra archive

‘Artificial intelligence will not replace human resources, but it is and will be a strong support function. It's like the calculator – at first, accountants used abacuses and then calculators came along. They were much more accurate, capable of calculating much larger figures, but they never replaced the accountant.

It is the same in medicine – artificial intelligence complements staff rather than replacing them. As much data as it can process, the doctor still has to make the final decision and has a key role to play,’

says Kaspars Grosu, Head of Customer Relations and Business Development at DataMed.

eit_health_latvijas_centra_diskusija_par_maksligo_intelektu04.jpgPhoto: EIT Health Latvijas centra archive

‘One of the biggest challenges in Latvia and globally is a lack of people who can work with AI technologies. One thing we can do now is to get girls involved in STEM at an early age. Encourage them to enter these kinds of fields by giving them the opportunity to choose their future.

In this way, we would encourage the development of medicine and artificial intelligence, because there is currently a big gender imbalance in the IT sector, which we should pay more attention to,'

says Vita Stūre, founder of Semantic Intelligence.

Legislation is not keeping pace with AI solutions

Various innovations have come to Latvia and the world that seemed impossible until relatively recently, such as 3D printing, the use of virtual reality in medical treatment and training, and the use of artificial intelligence in diagnosis. In 2021, the global market for AI in healthcare was already worth around USD 11 billion. By 2030, it is expected to reach almost USD 188 billion. Artificial intelligence technology is advancing rapidly, but the legislation governing liability for its use is not adapting as quickly.

eit_health_latvijas_centra_diskusija_par_maksligo_intelektu05.jpgFrom the left: Normunds Grūzītis, Vita Stūre, Karina Palkova, Kaspars Grosu. Photo: EIT Health Latvijas centre archive

‘Although work is underway to improve legislation, the legal framework for artificial intelligence and related issues are currently not specifically defined in Latvia and the European Union. Responsibility for its use in healthcare can be seen from several perspectives. If an artificial intelligence system acts as a medical device or as an in vitro diagnostic device, the manufacturer bears the liability related to the harm caused to the health of patients. On the other hand, if the artificial intelligence device performs a support function, such as a blood pressure measurement application, disputes are viewed from a product liability perspective – both the manufacturer and the service provider may be liable. Nevertheless, any EU Member State may establish a different mechanism to protect the rights of patients and healthcare professionals,’ says Karina Palkova, Associate Dean of the RSU Faculty of Law, attorney at law, expert in health and medical law.